Monday, 6 May 2013

Of MOOCs and other ramblings

MOOCs make me laugh.
Not because I find them a laughable matter. Quite the contrary. It's just that the sounds of the word when I pronounce it: the double "o" extends longer than it should probably do and it sounds like the "moo" of a cow.
Most of the time I say "mooc", but I think "mooooc!!!"
Every time I say the word I feel like one of those moo cow toy been turned over and back again. Given my ever expanding size it's a fitting image, but again, I don't laugh for the notion of it.

I'm actually enrolled in my 3rd class at Coursera and I've read quite a lot of articles about the subject in the past months.
Overall it's very hard to find something that is not "fanboy" driven. In a word made of shades, you can rely on journalism to provide you a black or white analysis on any given subject:
MOOCs are bad. MOOCs are good.
MOOCs are the end of University education as we know it. MOOCs are the 2.0 version of University by post and they're doomed to fail it.
So where do I stand on the topic?
Well, first of all I am not taking any class to improve my University curricula, nor I am doing it in order to get something out for my work. It's more of a way to learn new stuff while enjoying myself at the same time.

So far my favorite class has been "The Language of Hollywood": it was all about sounds and color, how they play in the creation of movies before and after the era of sound movies. The best part was not watching the movies, even though I discovered some brilliant masterpieces on the line. The best part were the video lessons by professor Higgins: he gave me a new set of eyes and ears I can now use to look at and listen to a movie.

Objectively there's very little in this class a SW tester could use in everyday office task, but as a movie lover I can say that the way I looked at the silver screen has changed from what it was some week ago.

Second class was a bit tougher, "Introduction to Philosophy". Course wrapped up some weeks ago, but I'm not convinced yet I enjoyed it. Yet it gave me loads of food for thoughts, which I think it's good. It made me think, which I think it was the primary idea of me taking the class, even though I always believed that time travel would be confined to Doctor Who's Saturday slot on telly, rather than a steampunk inspired philosophy lecture.

The third class, "Rhetorical writing" started about two weeks ago and I don't have that many opinion about it right now as it's just at the beginning.
However, because of my small experience, I came to some conclusion about them.

A lot of the work around MOOC seems to happen around the discussion forums of the class. And that's what I'm not very good at: as my day is still made of the standard 24 hours, I don't have the time to work, clean the house, study, do the assignments for the class and also spend time on the forums. So from this point of view, I think MOOCs would be better  for people still studying or for people with better time management skills. Even if I had more time, I'd probably still struggle with forums: people look quite assertive and this put me off a big deal. The key point of the whole thing is something called connectivism, which is a thesis that bases knowledge on social and cultural context and on the idea that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections. Now the idea in itself is appealing, but it leaves me wondering a lot: in a world where neighbours don't even greet you at your building entrance,  how can knowledge really circulate in network of connections amongst strangers?

There's a lot of focus about one of the 2 Os, the one standing for "open", because it obviously brings in a lot of different factors: new companies set up for the coursers, founding and financial sponsors. Accessibility to knowledge sources is very important and a new channel to get it is something that obviously causes interest, but I don't really seem able to focus too much on this, because topic is so broad and complicated that doesn't fit very well with my late nights musings: at the end of it, the only thing remaining short of midnight is the laughing notion of a tin turning upside down... mooooc!

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